Tennis camp serves up life skills for kids

Above left, York Summer Sport Camp participant Austin Miso lines up a return. Above right: Jessica Korosec reaches for the volley.

While most tennis fans’ eyes will be focused on the Rexall Centre at York’s Keele campus during next month’s Rogers Cup tournament, the courts beside the Tait McKenzie Centre have been busy throughout July, filled with young people enrolled in Sport & Recreation York’s summer camp program.

The York Tennis Camp for girls and boys, 8 to 16, is the senior sport of the Summer Sport Camp program, which includes basketball, soccer and, for the first time this year, track & field.

Mike Mitchell

Left: York’s head tennis coach, Mike Mitchell, offers tips to Summer Sport Camp participants

Mike Mitchell, head tennis coach at York, is in his seventh year of the camp program. Although he is used to training athletes at the varsity level, he understands the point of the program is to introduce the community to York while providing an overall camp experience for children who aren’t necessarily looking at tennis as a competitive pursuit. “We do sometimes get higher-level young players,” says Mitchell, pointing to campers Austin Miso and Nikolas Puran as they rocket serves to each other. “Two girls who have been at the camp for five years are now pretty good tennis players – and it’s a life skill that they will have for the rest of their life.”

Players are on court in the mornings for instruction led by Mitchell and his staff of Ontario Tennis Association certified counsellors who are mostly York students from a variety of academic backgrounds. After lunch at the Orange Snail in Stong College, camp participants then have a choice of activities such as swimming or games. They can also choose to do tennis drills at indoors stations where they develop skills using the same progressive approach used by Tennis Canada.

Right: From left, camp counsellors Tomo Ono and Giancarlo Murano

Mitchell’s staff includes Charmaine Smith, a concurrent geography and kinesiology & health science major; Giancarlo Murano, a concurrent education and urban planning student who is in his fourth year as a counsellor; and Tomo Ono, a kinesiology & health sciences major who has been a member of the York Lions varsity tennis team for four years and was an Ontario University Athletics all-star in 2009. Veteran counsellor and York kinesiology & health science grad Johannes Mesker (BA Spec. Hons. ’07) is a teacher who has been with the camp for six years. Mitchell recruited Mesker from the kinesiology & health science program in York’s Faculty of Health and says the camp has helped him develop as an educator too. “It’s beneficial for people going into education to be counsellors so they can learn how to manage children,” he says.

An added feature of all the sport camps at York again this year, is the participation of diabetic children taking part in a study led by York Professor Michael Riddell (see YFile, July 16) of the Faculty of Health. Young athletes not only learn how to manage their diabetes at the camp, but help provide Riddell and his colleagues with valuable data for their research.

Mitchell will have little time off when the camps wind up at the end of July before he has to begin preparations for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport nationals, which run concurrently with the Rogers Cup from Aug. 7 to 15 (See YFile, July 21).